LONDON – Four members of the LulzSec international hacking group were sentenced to prison terms in Britain on Thursday for masterminding cyber-attacks on major global institutions, including Sony Pictures and the CIA.
Ryan Cleary, 21, Jake Davis, 20, Mustafa al-Bassam, 18, and Ryan Ackroyd, 26, saw themselves as “latter-day pirates” when they carried out the attacks on organizations that also included The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s top-selling British newspaper.
Cleary was jailed for 32 months, Ackroyd for 30 months and Davis for two years, while al-Bassam was given a 20-month suspended sentence. All four had admitted offenses under the 1990 Computer Misuse Act.
The group were “hacktivists” with the LulzSec collective behind attacks that stole sensitive personal data such as emails, passwords and credit card details.
LulzSec, an offshoot of the larger group Anonymous, existed from February to July 2011 and built up a huge international following, reaching 355,000 Twitter followers within two months.
They used social media and leaked details of attacks to journalists to further their quest of publicity, mainly through their chief publicist, Davis.
The international group’s highest-profile attack involved the extensive breach of Sony Pictures’ computer systems, which led to the personal data of thousands of Sony customers being posted online.
Sony lost details relating to 26.4 million customers in the attack, which cost it £13 million ($20 million), the court heard.
In June 2011, LulzSec took down the CIA.gov website, and the following month visitors to The Sun’s website were redirected to a spoof story about Murdoch committing suicide.
They also carried out distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, using linked networks of up to 1 million computers to overpower and crash websites.
The group’s activity collectively cost their targets millions of dollars and potentially left millions of people at risk from criminals.